Parasitology Research

, Volume 102, Issue 5, pp 875–880

Investigations on the biology, epidemiology, pathology, and control of Tunga penetrans in Brazil: VII. The importance of animal reservoirs for human infestation

  • Daniel Pilger
  • Stefan Schwalfenberg
  • Jörg Heukelbach
  • Lars Witt
  • Heinz Mehlhorn
  • Norbert Mencke
  • Adak Khakban
  • Hermann Feldmeier
Original Paper


In Brazil tungiasis is endemic in many resource-poor communities, where various domestic and sylvatic animals act as reservoirs for this zoonosis. To determine the role of animal reservoirs in human tungiasis, a cross-sectional study was performed in a traditional fishing community in northeast Brazil. The human and the animal populations were examined for the presence of embedded sand fleas and the prevalence and the intensity of infestation were correlated. The overall prevalence of tungiasis in humans was 39% (95% CI 34–43%). Of six mammal species present in the village, only cats and dogs were found infested. The prevalence in these animals was 59% (95% CI 50–68%). In households, where infested pet animals were present, a higher percentage of household members had tungiasis (42% [95% CI 30–53%] versus 27% [20–33%], p = 0.02), and the intensity of the infestation was higher (six lesions versus two lesions, p = 0.01). The intensity of infestation in animals correlated with the intensity of infestation in humans (rho = 0.3, p = 0.02). Living in a household with an infested dog or cat led to a 1.6-fold (95% CI 1.1–2.3, p = 0.015) increase in the odds for the presence of tungiasis in household members in the bivariate analysis and remained a significant risk factor in the multivariate regression analysis. The study shows that in this impoverished community tungiasis is highly prevalent in humans and domestic animals. In particular, it underlines the importance to include animals in control operation aiming at the reduction of disease occurrence in the human population.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Pilger
    • 1
  • Stefan Schwalfenberg
    • 1
  • Jörg Heukelbach
    • 2
  • Lars Witt
    • 1
  • Heinz Mehlhorn
    • 3
  • Norbert Mencke
    • 4
  • Adak Khakban
    • 1
  • Hermann Feldmeier
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Microbiology and HygieneCharité—University of Medicine, Campus Benjamin FranklinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Community Health, School of MedicineFederal University of CearáFortalezaBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Zoology and ParasitologyHeinrich Heine UniversityDüsseldorfGermany
  4. 4.Animal Health DivisionBayer HealthCare AGLeverkusenGermany

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